Welcome to part two of our special SceneNotes series in which we offer a quick peek at each of our 2019 plays and musicals to give you a better idea of what each production has in store, who the key players are, and why you should rush to book your tickets now. With such an amazing and varied line-up of theatrical offerings - together with stellar direction, spectacular choreography and guaranteed powerhouse performances - we're sure you won't want to miss a single one!
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Martha Henry
Studio Theatre: May 7 to October 12
A rare chance to see this seldom-performed 1613 Shakespeare historical play of royal passion, political intrigue and personal faith. The action of the play takes place during the middle years of the reign of the infamous Henry VIII, and culminates with the birth in 1533 of Henry's daughter, Elizabeth - who went on to rule over England's Golden Age.
When King Henry's head is turned by one of Queen Katherine's ladies-in-waiting, Anne Bullen (one of the many variant spellings in Shakespeare's time of the name we now write as "Boleyn"), there unfolds a series of events that changed the course of England's history. Cardinal Wolsey - the King's advisor - plays a dangerous and self-serving political game while encouraging Henry to divorce his loyal queen. Katherine fights back with support from the Pope, but eventually Henry gets his way and secretly marries Anne, who gives birth to the future Queen Elizabeth I. Discovering that Wolsey has been working against him, Henry destroys his once-valued advisor and replaces him as Archbishop of Canterbury with Wolsey's mortal enemy, Thomas Cranmer.
Festival favourite Jonathan Goad rules in the title role, with Irene Poole taking on the long-suffering Queen Katherine. Back for her second season, Alexandra Lainfiesta plays Anne Bullen, and Rod Beattie dons the robes of Cardinal Wolsey. Director Martha Henry will transform the Studio Theatre into a royal court filled with betrayals, power games and exciting political machinations.
The Merry Wives of Windsor
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Antoni Cimolino
Festival Theatre: May 11 to October 26
A guaranteed treat for Shakespeare fans and lovers of high-energy comedy, this hilarious play is often hailed as one of Shakespeare's funniest comedies. Thought to have been written in 1597-1598, it's the only one of his plays in which Shakespeare overtly depicted his own time and place: Elizabethan England.
One of Shakespeare's most beloved characters, the fat knight, Sir John Falstaff, has seduction on his mind, with both Mrs. Page and her friend Mrs. Ford being the objects of his lust. When these "merry wives" receive identical love letters from Falstaff, they compare notes and plan revenge. Meanwhile, their husbands have been made privy to Falstaff's plans, and the jealous Frank Ford begins setting a trap of his own. The mistresses of mischief have their fun with Falstaff and Ford, eventually letting their husbands in on the game. During their ultimate prank - in which much of the community participates - young Anne Page turns her back on her parents' choices for her future husband and steals away with her true love, Fenton. When the two return to announce that they are married, all are reconciled to the inevitable, and Mrs. Page invites everyone to her home to "laugh this sport o'er by a country fire."
The Festival's own "Lord of Misrule," Geraint Wyn Davies, returns as Sir John Falstaff to battle wits against the effervescent duo of Sophia Walker as Mrs. Ford and Brigit Wilson as Mrs. Page. The fabulous cast also stars Graham Abbey as Mr. Ford, Michael Blake as Mr. Page, Lucy Peacock as Miss Quickly and Sarah Dodd as the Hostess of The Garter. Director Antoni Cimolino sets this tale in a small town of the 1950s - not unlike our Stratford - where the community itself is a hero in the story.